To start off we all need to be honest with ourselves, did anyone walk into this game thinking it’d be a 5-point Tech loss? This was an either/or game. Walking from tailgate I told a buddy “either this is over by halftime, or we make this a game.” I don’t think anyone would have guessed that we’d open with two picks, lead at halftime, and then suffer one injury after another and still be in it until the final minute. I know that opportunities dwindled and there are some supremely frustrating stats, but that was a heckuva game by the Red Raiders overcoming adversity and hanging with a serious opponent. There are a few more snarky awards this week than normal so be warned, I’ve got a couple of bones to pick and well, I have a platform and I’m going to use it.
Oh Hey! Glad You Made It Award
Red Raider Nation
I was getting nervous driving down University to park, tailgating looked a little thin and I didn’t see as many folks out and about. It was chilly and pretty windy in Lubbock, America yesterday. There was rain forecast from 7-8 p.m. too, which I was worried would scare folks away. But the stadium looked pretty dang good when the Masked Rider led the team onto the field. Other than those two goofy sections next to the Jumbotron 5000 everything was pretty full and the blackout looked great. There was good energy in the Jones too, at least for a while. I appreciate the energy the students bring, and while I’m not a fan of cursing on national television, they were ready to be rowdy and that’s key. I think I’ve begun to realize though that we as Red Raiders need to find a way to shift our culture. I’ll come back to this idea later in another award.
Alan Bowman, QB
Alan Bowman was spectacular in the first half and unfortunately never played a down in the second half with an apparent injury. Early on there was conjecture that he was hit in the head during warmups by an errant football. Which let’s be honest, that’s the most Texas Tech thing ever to happen if so. Others speculated there was more going on stemming from an earlier hit. Bowman rushed for a TD on a designed run to the short side of the field but ended up getting knocked out of bounds. He got up a little slow and Tech scored on the next play on a toss to Da’Leon Ward. Reports are that Bowman struggled to catch his breath after that and after midnight Texas Tech released a statement that he was at Covenant for observation related to his previous injury of a partially collapsed lung. Obviously, this wasn’t ideal for the team or Tech’s chances in the game, but you’ve got to give it to Bowman. He bounced back from a tough game in Ames to really shine.
Bowman went 21/27 for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns. That’s an average of 8.7 yards per attempt, which is what the Sooners averaged offensively for the night. He was never sacked and his one rush for 3 yards is the play that ended his evening. Bowman was sharp and managed the Oklahoma pass rush exceptionally well. It’s apparent that Bowman sees the field very well and he is a student of the game. He carves up secondaries and his ability to read coverages and blitzes is impressive. While the Red Raider running game didn’t get rolling, the screen game did and that’s always been Tech’s answer when rushing proves difficult. Bowman continues to show great command of this offense and good chemistry with his various receivers. He is accurate on the run but he does throw off his back foot at times. This immediately reminds me of Taylor Potts, at which point I black out and wake up having burned all of my belongings. I prefer when Bowman doesn’t do that. Also, the downfield blocking on that Ward run was exceptional, and his cut to embarrass the OU defender was one of my favorite moments of the night.
Mind Blown Award
Antoine Wesley, WR
Wesley has been a pleasant surprise this season emerging as the top target and downfield threat with his height and surprising speed. In only his junior season the future is bright for the athletic Wesley with plenty more noise to be made this season as well. Antoine Wesley has 12 receptions for 199 yards Saturday night. This catapulted him over 1,000 yards receiving this year, pushing him to 1,176 yards and 7 touchdowns in 70 receptions.
Wesley has passed Michael Crabtree (2008) in the record books for the 10th best single receiving season in Texas Tech history and he is 1 yard behind Carlos Francis and Jarrett Hicks who are tied for 8th with 1,177 yards. Keke Coutee sits at #2 on the list with 1,429 yards from the 2017 season and Wesley has a shot of surpassing him needing 253 yards to do so. Michael Crabtree sits atop that list for his 2007 campaign where he amassed 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns. If Wesley can surpass Coutee for the #2 spot he will also move above Carlos Francis (2003), Jarrett Hicks (2004), Danny Amendola (2007), Lloyd Hill (1992), Jakeem Grant (2015), Joel Filani (2006), and Jace Amaro (2013). Not bad company at all.
To All the Fans Who’ve Left Before Award
There’s this historic piece of music called the Matador Song and the Goin’Band From Raiderland plays it after every single game. Maybe, just maybe, you could care more about supporting the team and showing some school pride than walking to your car, beating traffic (you won’t), catching the bus, having a smoke, or whatever else you’re so concerned about. Just hang around, if you stayed until 2:00 left in the 4th quarter of a football game, what is the problem with staying until the end and joining in a display of spirit and pride with your fellow Red Raiders? I mean, that is assuming you are a Red Raider right? If you bailed at halftime, or really during game time at all yesterday, then you ignored the fact that the game was not over yet. Tech was one play away until the final minute.
I mentioned earlier that we as Red Raiders need to shift our culture. Whether it’s a football field, a baseball diamond, the hardwood, a soccer pitch, whatever, these athletes are not on the field to entertain us the alumni/fans, we are there to support them. They are working full-time jobs as student-athletes to represent our university on national and international stages, they deserve our enthusiastic support from bell to bell. The culture of our university and alumni-base is built on a tradition of support and a feeling of family. When we came to Texas Tech it’s because there was something different about it, and we continue to support it for the same. The fan-base needs to get back to the basics of supporting this school, not waiting around to be entertained.
Once we’ve mastered this concept maybe then we’ll figure out how not to do Raider Power or the wave when we’re on offense, I’m looking at you too baseball fans when we’re batting it’s not the time for yelling.
Shining Star Award
Vaughnte Dorsey was on fire Saturday night! He led the team with 11 tackles (5 solo), .5 sacks, .5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 1 soul-crushing hit. He also gained 48 yards on his two interception returns, which begs the question – why isn’t Vaughnte Dorsey fielding punts and kickoffs? Seriously though, Dorsey was excellent and a huge difference-maker in this game. Kyler Murray came into this game with 3 interceptions in 218 passing attempts and 31 touchdowns. For Dorsey to basically open the game with two interceptions was both welcome and unexpected. Dorsey now has three interceptions on the season, the other coming off of an Adrian Frye tip against Lamar.
Dakota Allen only recorded one tackle and was out with injury for much of the game. He came out after halftime with a club on his left hand but I didn’t see him return. Dorsey rose to the occasion supported by Jah’Shawn Johnson, Riko Jeffers, and Jordyn Brooks.
Welcome to the Party Award
Ward has seen limited action this season with a lingering groin injury and what early on appeared to be a very capable stable of running backs. Over the last two weeks, it’s been Ta’Zhawn Henry getting a few snaps and Ward the majority. There was a question against Iowa State if he was really back to 100% or if we were seeing the effect of a stifling defense. Well, Ward didn’t break loose on Saturday night against OU, but he did have a respectable evening combing the classic rushing game and the Texas Tech version of rushing, the screen. Ward finished as the leading rusher with 53 yards and 1 touchdown on 8 carries, and as the second-leading receiver with 5 receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown. So 13 touches for 127 yards and 2 scores is not a bad day in the least.
You’re Better Than This Award
So there I was, ran over to the Frazier Alumni Pavilion with a friend to grab a quick drink during halftime. This isn’t out of the ordinary for me, I often go there before the game and during halftime as well, especially since my seats are right by the most convenient gate to do this. I know it can get crowded and I expected it to be even more crowded this game (it was). That’s totally fine with me, I’m glad to be in a building full of Red Raiders and I appreciate the Alumni Association for making the Frazier available at all, and for keeping drink and food prices there reasonable. This game though, I have a bone to pick.
Because of the crowd my buddy and I went out on the patio and found some space to stand in the back corner, then it became very apparent that we were no longer surrounded by fellow Red Raiders. Because of the crowds, we were running a little behind and the second half got underway while we were finishing our beverage. Suddenly, we’re in the middle of a cheering crowd, but they weren’t cheering for the good guys. The patio of the Texas Tech Alumni Association Frazier Alumni Pavilion was full of Sooners partaking in adult beverages and cheering “Boomer Sooner” for their team. WHAT THE HELL?!? Surely our own alumni association can control the door to this facility better than that.
During my week in Omaha, we went to all of the TTAA tailgates before Tech’s College World Series games. In the first and largest of those events, I watched TTAA personnel ask a Longhorn to leave after coming into our event in all of his burnt orange horror and strutting around as if he belonged there. I FULLY support that policy and I think others agree with me judging from the likes on Twitter I received after mentioning this frustrating halftime discovery this weekend.
I’m not saying that a Sooner that lives in Lubbock, or a friend at a game with a Red Raider can’t come into the Frazier and enjoy a drink and a corn dog. But when a fan base is present in a Texas Tech Alumni Association facility to the point they are cheering as a group, cursing, and telling Red Raiders around them “this is our house now” then it’s no longer just polite, it’s something that needs to be addressed. There should be no place more safe for Red Raiders to be together without the frustration of the opposition talking smack than in a TTAA facility, an organization that exists to support Texas Tech and to serve the alumni and fan base.
Jett Duffey, QB – Duffey came in briefly in the first half, throwing to Ta’Zhawn Henry in the flats for a wide receiver screen that went for a touchdown. He played the entire second half and was serviceable overall going 9/17 for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day. Duffey kept some drives alive with his legs but was sacked twice. He chipped in 47 yards and 1 touchdown on 13 carries and was Tech’s second-leading rusher on the day behind Da’Leon Ward. Duffey has been pressed into difficult situations and performed reasonably well at times. He deserves credit for keeping the Red Raiders in this game in the second half and avoiding turnovers.
Dominic Panazzolo, P – Dom once again proved what a valuable weapon he can be with 5 punts for 247 yards, an average of 49.4 yards per punt and a long of 54 yards. The Aussie punter dropped one inside the 5-yard line where it was downed by Red Raider coverage on the 1-yard line. Panazzolo’s ability to flip the field for Texas Tech has been a valuable contribution and he has rightly been named to the Ray Guy Award watch list.
A Tale of Two Halves – Again Award
Once again the Red Raiders seemed like two different teams from one half to another. We saw defensive pressure, run defense, interceptions, and strong offensive production in the first half. Then, everything changed. I don’t know if it can all be blamed on injuries but they certainly didn’t help. Bringing in Jett Duffey in the second half undoubtedly stalled the Red Raider passing attack. Couple this with Travis Bruffy missing time and we saw more pressure on the quarterback and sacks. The defense lost Dakota Allen and the Oklahoma run game went wild in the second half finishing with over 300 yards rushing. Coming into this game the Sooners averaged 305 yards rushing over their last six games against the Red Raiders.
I don’t have any serious pearls of wisdom for this game, I thought it was a fun and exciting football game. The Red Raiders came to play and while I wish the defense could stop the run and limit chunk plays, they did a lot this game to keep Tech in it. Unfortunately, the offense in the second half couldn’t stay on the field and the defense wore down. I think with Bowman still in this game we most-likely would have won it. The defense deserves their share of credit for us being in a position like that against the Sooners. All-in-all I feel like this was a step back in the right direction offensively after a struggle-bus of a game against Iowa State.
It’s time to flush this one and move on. Texas Tech has three games left on the schedule and a real opportunity to win out. Alan Bowman’s status is still unsure but the Texas Longhorns are coming to town in what is sure to be a rowdy night game at The Jones. That one has been set for 6:30 p.m. on FOX, so another national audience for what could be Texas Tech getting bowl-eligible. It’s crazy to think that even with some disappointing losses, lingering injuries, and frustrating miscues the Red Raiders are still sitting in a position to have a nine-win season if they can keep their players on the field and take care of business.